This is a guest post by Erin Palmer (@erin_e_palmer).
If you’ve started a business in any capacity, you know that planning is crucial. In order to have anyone invest in your concept, you need to have a thorough business plan which shows your market analysis and cash flow predictions. Once you have created your document, you cannot just archive it along with your first dollar. The plan needs to be updated as the business changes: this means managing the projects of your business. A project could be a new advertising strategy, a change in location or the addition of a new product or service, to name a few.
Start-up business owners are risk-takers by nature. Building a business is a highly creative process, and new ideas can be pivotal in defining the market and besting the competition. When exciting ideas are proposed, especially when there is a timeline involved, you may be tempted to rush into implementation. Yet in order to show that the ideas will be useful in future, you need to employ some basic project planning:
- Use a process to track each project
- Track business methods and outcomes
- Manage resources at hand
- Manage the funds and predict spending
Even the greatest ideas can be misused if they are not executed wisely. You might leap into a new advertising venue that could be great for your business overall, but your ad may be designed for the wrong section of your market. Or you could decide to offer a free service and yet miss several aspects in which you could have minimized your own costs.
Many businesses experience fundamental project management problems which could be solved if the entrepreneurs stepped back and took a hard look at the goings on. Often the issues are simple: moderate to low accountability to customers, missed deadlines on business goals or failure to track progress.
Despite the resources available to new business owners, many people learn project planning only after several serious mistakes. By utilizing project planning from the start, you can elevate yourself above your competition and increase the speed of your learning curve. With each carefully planned and tracked project, you will learn more about the process and improve your ability to predict variables and outcomes.
Keeping formal track of your business projects also helps when your business expands. As you begin to realize new possibilities, planning, forecasting and reviewing past data will become second nature. This provides your business with a great deal of stability.
Often, new business owners fail to plan because they believe they need more experience in order to do so. You may ask yourself: how can you know if an advertising method will work if you've never done it? Why plan when you're in a trial stage? This is where project planning is critical, though. Being new and unsure of what will work does not mean you don't need a plan—on the contrary, it means you need a flexible plan. You should take the time to measure financial risks and plan alternative strategies.
If you are still not convinced that project planning can improve your start-up business, you may need to find ways of making it easy for yourself. Do some research in order to locate project management software designed for your business type. That way, you can experiment with project planning without putting excess time and resources into it. New business owners do need to plan projects and see them through, and the planning can save a lot of confusion along the way.
Erin Palmer works and writes for University Alliance and their project management programs. Each project management course UA’s partner universities offer can help you prepare for a PMI certification.
I write articles with real insight into the career and skills of a modern software engineer. "Raw and honest from the heart!" as one reader described them. Fueled by lessons learned over 20 years of building production code for side-projects, small businesses, and hyper growth startups. Both successful and not.
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